Delhi High Court Agrees To Hear PIL Against 3 Government ‘Surveillance’ Systems
A signage for Delhi High Court is displayed in New Delhi, India. (Source: PTI)

Delhi High Court Agrees To Hear PIL Against 3 Government ‘Surveillance’ Systems

The Delhi High Court has agreed to hear a public interest litigation challenging three surveillance systems of the central government. The systems allow the government to monitor communications of individuals through mobile phones, fixed-line phones, and the internet, the petitioners have claimed.

On Wednesday, the Delhi High Court bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan issued notice to the central government asking it to file an affidavit replying to the petition before the next date of hearing.

The PIL, filed by Centre For Public Interest Litigation and Software Freedom Law Centre, focuses on three projects, and argues:

  • Centralised Monitoring System: Centralised system to monitor mobile phone, landline and internet traffic.
  • The Network Traffic Analysis: Developed by a DRDO lab to monitor internet traffic for select keywords.
  • National Intelligence Grid Project: Portrayed as a counter-terrorism initiative, it will utilize technology to analyse huge amounts of data relating to individuals.

The petitions argue that the three projects allow for unbridled collection, processing, and storage of huge amounts of personal data pertaining to individuals in violation of the fundamental right to privacy.

A nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court in 2017 unanimously held privacy as a fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution. The petitioners argue that the projects in question violate the tests such as legitimate state aim; proportionality and necessity to limit a citizen’s right to privacy.

The oversight mechanism for these projects too is inadequate and allows the law enforcement agencies to subject all and any individuals under mass surveillance, argues the petition.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan appeared for the petitioners in the high court. The bench, after hearing Bhushan, directed the central government to file the affidavit replying to the contentions.

The high court will next take up the case on Jan. 7, 2021.

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